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Aviation Program FAQs

Aviation at a Glance

  • AABI Accredited (Aviation Education Specialization)
  • R-ATP certified
  • Seven FAA certificates earned (private pilot, instrument, commercial single and multiengine, CFI, CFII, MEI)
  • Cost effective

SDSU Aviation Student Handbook

Frequently Asked Questions

We are the premier aviation program in South Dakota and train more students here at South Dakota State University than everywhere else in the state! Our Bachelor of Science degree in aviation with a specialization in aviation education is designed to make sure you are ready to for the aviation industry when you graduate college. You will complete seven Federal Aviation Administration flight tests resulting in earning your single and multi-engine commercial certificate with instrument ratings. Additionally, you will earn your certificated flight instructor (CFI), certificated flight instructor instrument (CFII) and your multiengine flight instructor (MEI) certificate. We believe that regardless of your career path in aviation, you will be on a path of continuous improvement where you will be in a position of learning or you will be teaching others how to do better.

If you would like to schedule a visit and tour our aviation facility, please talk to our Admissions office and let them know you are interested in aviation, they will schedule a personalized visit just for you! If you have a specific question or need more information, contact us.

Great, you started at the right spot! The first step is to apply to SDSU and talk with our awesome Admissions staff, which can help guide you through the process. Towards the end of May we will send you out a welcome packet with a few tasks to complete before you come to campus for New Student Orientation in the summer.

This is a trick question and it really does depend on what is all included in the cost. On average it will take about $164,000 to complete a B.S. in aviation - aviation education degree at SDSU if you start this year. Half of that number is tuition, room, board, fees and books. The other half (about $84,000) is additional expenses related to the extra expense of aviation (airplane, fuel, check rides and instructors) adjusted for approximately 3% inflation per year. Please see our cost sheet that helps break down the full expense involved with our program:

Average Flight Charges

We try very hard to consider ALL the costs associated with the flight potion of the program, not just the minimum.

The costs that we quote are based on what average students paid to complete the program. Also our graduates come out of SDSU with seven FAA ratings and certificates, versus the standard four or five at many other institutions. We do not quote you the minimum number of hours to complete the program; we take a different approach in trying to be as up front as possible with the total expense of the aviation program. We do include examiners fees, a modest headset, books and charts, and three additional flight instructor certificates that most other schools do not include in the cost sheet.

First off, thank you for your service! We have a number of students who are veterans, guard members, reserve members and ROTC. We are authorized to offer flight training within the aviation education degree program paid with Post 9/11 (or some variations) VA funding. Please note the VA and some other specific scholarships only pay for the course fee (which is a minimum amount of training). Please see the VA Flight Training Charges listed here:

VA Flight Charges

These costs are billed at the beginning of the semester and are applied to your total flight bill. Students should expect to pay additional expenses due to the individual nature of flight training.

The majority of students will use alternative (private) educational loans to pay for the bulk of the expenses related to flight training. More information about the financial aid process can be found online or by talking to an admissions counselor. SDSU offers some great scholarships like the SD Opportunities Scholarship and the Jackrabbit Guarantee to new incoming students. The aviation program does offer aviation specific scholarships, usually to sophomore and junior level students each year.

Our graduates come out of our program with seven FAA ratings and from here generally instructor for a year or two and then go to a regional airline or corporate flight department. There is a huge need for pilots right now and we have had no problems finding positions for our graduates. Over the last six months we have seen an influx in flight schools and regional airlines who are actively recruiting our graduates.

Pay has not kept up with the demand for pilots right now; however we fully expect that to change in the future, according to our alumni survey the average salary right after college is about $26,000. First year pay at a regional airline is currently $65,000, which generally takes one year after graduate to accumulate the required 1,000 of total flight time to get. It is not uncommon for graduates ten years after graduation to make over $100,000 in a pilot position. Flight instructors at SDSU generally earn more than $23 per hour while in school.

We find that students do best when they start out with zero flight time along with other students. While we do accept credit for students that have their private pilot already, there are some caveats that we would want to discuss before going that route. As each student is just a little bit different, please talk to Cody Christensen about any flight training that you will or plan to complete before you come to SDSU. Generally speaking, unless you find an aircraft that is substantially cheaper you will end up spending about the same amount going through our program as you would getting your private pilot done before you come here. We are only able to transfer in 35 hours (regardless of total time) for your FAA private pilot certificate.

Our aviation maintenance management degree is designed as a two plus two program. What that means is you are required to have your airframe and powerplant (A&P) License from the FAA before you can begin the program, which usually means completing an Associate’s degree at a technical institute first. If you already have you’re A&P license, you can transfer to SDSU and it will take about four to five semesters to complete your coursework.

Of course! Due to Transportation Security Administration restrictions, there is additional paperwork that must be completed prior to starting any flight training. Please talk to an aviation faculty member as soon as possible to start the process so that your training is not delayed. All international students must complete their TSA background check prior to the add drop date. The process should be started at least one month before you begin flight training.

Headsets are very individualist and range in price from $99 to $1,300. We suggest a good passive noise cancelling headset in the $200-$400 range as a starter set. The most popular headsets with students are the David Clark 10-13.4 (~$350), Lightspeed Zulu (~$800) and the Bose A20 (~$1,100). We do have loaner headsets you can use to see what features you like. If you already have a headset- great bring that with and it is one less thing you need to purchase. As far as the books go, almost all our books are available for free online or depending on your preference, you can buy the paper copy. The SDSU bookstore does carry many of our books as does the Brookings Airport and many online websites. You can wait until the first day of class to decide which books are best for flight courses.

Take a look at our SDSU Aviation Student Handbook that goes into more detail for students enrolled in the program.

SDSU Aviation Student Handbook